Original Article

Osteoporosis International

, Volume 19, Issue 8, pp 1167-1173

First online:

Routine versus targeted vertebral fracture assessment for the detection of vertebral fractures

  • E. T. MiddletonAffiliated withCentre for Metabolic Bone Disease, Hull Royal Infirmary Email author 
  • , S. A. SteelAffiliated withCentre for Metabolic Bone Disease, Hull Royal Infirmary

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Fracture risk is underestimated in women with unknown vertebral fractures. Using VFA, we compared two screening methods: targeted (6,388 women) and routine (2,176 women). Routine screening detected fractures in 20%. Targeted screening only required 5% attending for DXA to undergo VFA but only detected 9.6% of women with fractures.


BMD alone underestimates fracture risk in women with unknown vertebral fractures. We report the results of routine vertebral fracture assessment (VFA) screening and compare with targeted screening.


Our centre initially targeted VFA at women with reasons to suspect a vertebral fracture. Later we changed to routine VFA screening for all women over 65. We retrospectively compare each screening method’s ability to detect vertebral fractures.


Six thousand three hundred and eighty-eight women over 65 underwent DXA during the period of targeted VFA and 2,176 during routine VFA. Routine VFA detected 420 (20.0%) women with fracture. Most vertebral fractures (56.2%) occurred in women with osteopenia. Routine VFA would be expected to alter the management of 1 in 6 osteopenic women. Targeted VFA was performed in 332 (5.2%) women detecting 122 (1.9%) women with fractures. It was estimated that targeted VFA only detected 9.6% of women with a vertebral fracture. Targeted VFA failed to detect fractures in 18.1% of the population attending for DXA and in 29% of those with osteoporosis.


Routine VFA detects vertebral fractures in 20% of women over 65. Targeted VFA greatly reduces the number of VFAs performed but only detects a minority of the women with vertebral fractures.


Bone mineral density Screening Vertebral fractures Vertebral fracture assessment